Parliamentary Elections and General Elections
People vote for all sorts of reasons. Some vote as to who they want to be the local MP. Others vote as to who they wish to see as the prime minister and there can be combinations in between.
The postal votes in Yardley which were cast about two weeks before polling day gave me 40%, but on the night I only got just over 25%. This has happened previously.
I had been for some time of the view that the attempt at equidistance from Labour and Conservative was likely to be problematic. Once we had gone into coalition with the Conservatives we would lose support from people who were unhappy with the government. Hence if we go into the general election saying we might put Labour in we run the risk of losing support the other way.
My personal view is that we should have campaigned for the continuation of the Lib Dem-Conservative coalition. That would at least have had some certainty about it. People tend to vote against risk. It would also have been easier to argue in that we were presenting a case that we did the right thing in 2010 and intended to continue doing something like this.
Politicians over think about politics. The voters in the end have to make relatively simple choices. Do they vote for one person or another. The "air war" and the debates on the TV about strategy have had strong impacts on the campaign in many elections. This was like 1992 where I also lost in Yardley with a swing against me in the last week or two.
Those people who concentrate on the national perspective will then vote against the national government in the way that they see as being most effective.
That, in itself, may not have been sufficient to re-elect me in Yardley as Labour would still have got about 17,000 votes (41% of the electorate). However, it would meant the many people swinging between me and the Tories or UKIP could have voted for me understanding that I was an anti-Labour candidate. Frankly I am of the view that Labour's proposals were such nonsense that it would have been impossible to get competent government out of the Labour leadership.
Such an approach, however, would not have seen us losing in so many seats nationally.
The party did consider what had happened in previous coalitions. Wrongly the assumption was made that as long as the party itself remained united there would not be a problem. Historically with a substantial deposit required it was difficult to put up alternative candidates. These days, however, (rightly so) it is much easier so although the party may not split itself it does split from its supporters.
Which is what happened.
I have had an interesting 10 years as MP for Yardley. I hope that my constituents believe that I have performed the function to an adequate standard.
Whatever electoral system is used parties have difficulties swapping their coalition preferences for exactly the reasons I have given above. Perhaps now that lesson will be learnt rather than the consequences ignored.